Big Sugar returns to its roots with Yardstyle
February 12, 2015

BY AMANDA LOGAN, FOR THE LEADER-POST

Get ready to experience a different Big Sugar – just as sweet but in a freshway.

The band has been touring acoustically, promoting its latest album Yardstyle – a refreshing acoustic sound that gives the band a different dimension.

“It’s not any different direction than we’ve already been in,” explained lead singer and guitarist Gordie Johnson. “I think the thing that stands out most about the record, if you check it, is it’s completely acoustic. Wooden instruments – we’re playing without electricity of any kind and it really allows all of the different musical influences to show through, which is reggae – the rhythmic element of it, but also blues, jazz and folk that influenced us early on that sometimes doesn’t stand out as easily in the electric show because the electricity kinda takes over.

“This is a chance for us to dig back into our roots and play songs from our first record and stuff that we don’t always get to do. Also, it’s a nice way to draw our audience into our vibe which is a lot more laid back. It’s the kinda music we play for ourselves.”

The band – comprised of Johnson, Garry Lowe (bass), Kelly Hoppe (harmonica/sax/melodica), Friendlyness (keyboards) and Stephane Bodean Beaudin (drums) – have been taking their laid back sound on tour since the end of January and will be sharing it with Regina on Saturday night at Casino Regina. As a different type of show, Johnson said things have been going pretty good.

“People have been feeling like they joined in on something as opposed to the electric show, which is us pushing forward and people are overwhelmed with the vibration of the music,” said Johnson. “In this instance, we draw the crowd closer to us, because it’s quiet its easy on the ears; I can talk to the audience about the songs a little bit, get some crowd participation. People can sing along and actually be heard. It’s more communal.”

To help create that communal feeling, the band even dons all-white apparel on stage.

“There’s so many of us on stage and it’s more about the group of us than it is about individuals,” said Johnson. “It’s a way of creating a sense of community – not only musically but visually.”

And if you forget your white clothes?

“It’s funny because we’re picking up musicians along the way – different people that we know from different towns,” Johnson laughingly explained. “People from our past history are getting up to play with us, and they show up at sound check and realize, “Oh my God I gotta run to HM and grab some white pants.”

Aside from having a good time at the show and getting a dose of Big Sugar in a way you may have not have, there is one other big difference about this tour.

“It’s something that really touches us all deeply. For the first time we have partnered up with a charity – with World Vision – and we have selected a single village in Ethiopia and we are trying to get our fans to work with us and sponsor the kids of this village so that we can get them all in school,” said Johnson.

“Now it’s not like I’m just asking people to throw money in a bucket, pass around a hat kinda thing. It really is focused, like we’re dealing with individual kids where you see their names – we know their names, we know their pictures, and we’re trying to give something to that community because rock ‘n’ roll can be very self-centred and an egocentric profession. It’s all about getting your picture taken, promoting yourself, selling your records, selling your shirts, sell your tickets – you know there’s a lot of sell, sell, sell – and the vibes of this music are not conducive to that, and that’s not really what we’re about anymore.

“So to be able to partner up with World Vision and do that and actually look at the pictures of the kids that we’re getting sponsored every night, that gives you a nice feeling. When I pick up a guitar and I think, ‘I’m sitting here singing and I’m getting a kid an education – literally.’ That’s a major difference.”

Big Sugar

8 p.m., Saturday

Casino Regina Show Lounge